What To Pack In Your Emergency Vehicle Bag

You never know what might happen when you spend time outdoors, but you’ll want to be prepared for multiple situations, especially if you have kids!

By Adventurtunity Family
Camp Ambassador

Over the past year, our experiences have taught us a great deal about how and what to pack in a vehicle emergency bag. We, of course, started with the traditional items, such as first-aid supplies, jumper cables and a roadside assistance kit (flares and such). All of these items should absolutely be in your vehicle, but today we are sharing a few other essentials that come in handy when spending time in Mother Nature. Think of it as a “what-if” bag in addition to the emergency supplies. You never know what might happen when you spend time outdoors, but you’ll want to be prepared for multiple situations, especially if you have kids!


Water, Water And More Water!

One thing you don’t want to run out of when you need it is water! We have been on far too many hikes where our day lasted longer than expected and our ample water supply was barely enough. As a result, we now always keep extra water in our vehicle so we can fill up our reusable water bottles once we return or prior to heading back out for another adventure on the same day.

Typically, we keep gallon jugs in the back of our Jeep and occasionally buy the cases of individual water bottles when we have family or friends visiting. We prefer the gallons best because they reduce the amount of plastic waste and it’s easier to fill up our Orca tumblers, which carry more water than a typical plastic bottle of water. Another reason to carry water with you at all times is that convenience stores and gas stations are sometimes farther away than you would expect when spending time in the backcountry.


Charging Cords And Battery Packs For Cellular Devices

Have you ever been out for the day with no cell service and realize your battery gets drained quickly? It’s usually because your phone has been searching for a signal the entire time. A great tip is to put your phone on airplane mode when you know no service will be found. Airplane mode will stop your phone from searching for a signal, which preserves your battery power. Even with our phones on airplane mode, we often find our battery charge is low, if not gone, by the end of a long day in the woods. Taking pictures and videos is a big battery drain, too! So, we now keep phone cords and external battery packs in our Jeep to ensure we can always get a charge, and directions if needed, once we find a cell signal.


Multiclimate Clothing

Having extra layers of clothes on hand has proved invaluable time and time again, especially with young ones. We have witnessed firsthand just how quickly the weather can turn one way or another. Keeping a few warm-weather layers and cold-weather clothes stashed in your vehicle can be the difference between a great day and one where you have to abort your plans early because you weren’t prepared. Our biggest snafu happened when we went snow tubing during a blizzard in Flagstaff. We were all prepared for a day of snow — or so we thought. Once we arrived and were in the process of suiting up, we realized we forgot our son’s snow gear. Thankfully, we had cold-weather layers in our gear bag and layered him up to look like the Michelin Man. But if we hadn’t had those extra clothes, we would have had to turn around and drive the hour back to our RV without having any snow day fun.

We could go on and on about how extra clothes have benefited all of us, and not just because of the weather. There have been so many opportunities to take an unplanned dip in a lake, get super muddy or stand under a waterfall. We feel much more confident indulging in these unexpected experiences knowing we have a change of clothes in the vehicle. Now the trick is always remembering to replenish our clothing stash once we use them!


Hand/Foot Warmers

Being from the East Coast, high elevation and the temperature drop that comes with it wasn’t typically something we needed to worry about much. But now having spent most of the year throughout the Rocky Mountains, we are very aware of how the elevation change can impact our adventure days. We’ve experienced temperature changes in excess of 20 degrees from the towns at the base of the mountain to our hiking destinations within the mountain range. While cleaning out our RV, I came across some hand and foot warmers. Even though it was in the heat of summer, I decided to put them in our vehicle emergency bag. Mind you, I wasn’t thinking we would use them anytime soon, but I was glad to know they were already in the bag for when we would need them. Turns out we used them all a week later!

We had some family visiting us in Glacier National Park, and we decided to hike the Hidden Lake Trail. We drove a 3,500-foot elevation gain from where we stayed near the West Entrance to Logan Pass, where the Hidden Lake trailhead was. On the day of our visit, a gnarly rainstorm system came through, and the temperature dropped almost 20 degrees from the morning when we had left. We had two options: Turn around and come up with plan B or stick it out and try to do the hike. We were worried about the kids being warm enough, and that’s when I pulled out our bag of extra gear. Right on top were the hand warmers! We had just enough for each kid to have the hand and foot packs. We were able to accomplish the hike, and the kids stayed warm!

It’s amazing how well these work in a pinch, as they can really warm you up. We won’t be traveling without hand and foot warmers from now on.


Electrolytes And Sugar

If you have young kids or get hangry (yes, we believe that’s a thing), then you most likely always have snacks at the ready. And we do, too. We make sure our coolers and backpacks are well-stocked for the day’s adventures. And most of our adventure days are long! By the time we get back to the vehicle, we are exhausted and feeling drained by the day’s activities while enduring heat, wind or cold temperatures. We found if we keep some extra electrolyte powder packets or sugars like gummy treats in our Jeep it’s just what we need to cut the edge before getting to our next meal.

Even hiking and exploring with electrolytes is a good idea to give you energy and replenish what your body is depleting during all of your adventuring.



All The Sprays

Spending time outdoors will hopefully bring you enjoyment and exciting adventures. However, what was planned to be a fantastic day can quickly go south if you find yourself unprepared for certain situations. We suggest taking the guesswork out of your packing by keeping all your necessary sprays in the vehicle, especially during the warmer months. We’re talking bug spray, sunscreen and bear spray. While the first two may not save your life like bear spray, they could definitely be essential in certain areas to ensure you have an enjoyable experience — one where you are not swatting flies, dodging mosquito bites or dealing with sunburned skin later on.


Bags And Bungees

Reusing plastic grocery bags is highly underrated. They come in handy for us daily! We keep a robust stash in our vehicle for trash, wet clothes, muddy toys, dog poop and so much more. We are huge advocates of “leave no trace” principles and always hike with plastic bags to not only remove our trash, but also others’ trash we see along the way. Another item we have used several times is bungee cords. We often have bikes and paddle boards with us on our adventures, or even a blanket or two if we know we are going to be out late. Bungees have come in handy to strap awkward-shaped things to our backpacks or when we need to fix or attach things with us. You never know when you’ll need one, but I promise you’ll be glad you have one when you do!

When it comes to storing these items, it is very helpful to keep them all in one place. We use a small duffel bag. Even one of those reusable grocery bags with a zipper will do. You’ll most likely want a bag with a zipper or some sort of closure to keep all the items in the bag. Even if you stash the bag in the trunk or a place that’s not so easy to access, just having it onboard when you need it will be extremely helpful and rewarding when that time comes — because it’s not if, but when!

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